In CR’s Spring 2009 issue, contributing writer Damaris Christensen wrote about maintaining hope after a cancer diagnosis. We asked readers to tell us about people who have given them hope during their cancer journey, the ways they coped and found strength, and advice they have for other survivors.
Below are excerpts from some of the responses we received.
The first reaction was: I don’t want to tell anybody. It was a lonely, sad decision. A total stranger in an airport shared her cancer story with me. … I found myself telling her my story and my diagnosis. She had a cancer that would kill her most likely; I had one I would likely die with, not of. She taught me how to speak of it—the telling, the saying the word, the sense of having a black hole all eased when I shared my journey.
—Glenn S. Ross
I was very fortunate that a social worker assigned to my case suggested that I attend the local head and neck cancer support group before I started treatment. The advice I received from the patients was priceless, and it was very reassuring to meet head and neck survivors who were 15 and 20 years post-treatment. These survivors became dear friends and were with me during every stage of my treatment.
Remember that it’s normal to feel angry or frustrated. You can’t have a positive outlook 100 percent of the time. Allow yourself to get angry and cry, but don’t let it take over your life.
In telling me that I had kidney cancer, the first thing that my urologist said was, “This will not kill you.” I took him at his word and moved on from there. Having been a member of a family visited by cancer on many occasions—most with unhappy outcomes—I learned early on in life that you take it one day at a time and don’t speculate.
Cancer does not change who you are. Although treatment can make you sick or weakened, you remain yourself. The biggest challenge once treatment is over is to live with the potential cloud of cancer’s return. Knowing that some days may be cloudy or stormy, I choose to live for the sunny days.
New York City
I stayed busy helping others who were also struggling, though not in the cancer community. … It helped me not to focus on myself and my problems and realize that though I was having a tough time, so were many others.
Find a way to connect with others, within or outside of the cancer community. Remember that there has never been one cancer that has killed all of its victims. Even if survival is only 2 percent, someone has to be in that 2 percent—why not you? I am now an eight-year survivor of what initially was a terminal diagnosis.
Crown Point, Ind.
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